Welcome to Duty Calls. This regular feature aims to shine a light on some of the most laudable examples of altruism and sustainability within the travel retail industry by companies that go beyond the call of duty.

In one of the most original events of the 2018 TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes, Paul & Shark hosted the creation of a stunning work of art.

Over three days, Italian artist Annarita Serra transformed one wall of the stand into a striking piece that brought the fashion label’s shark logo to life as never before.

The collaboration with Serra is just one aspect of Paul & Shark’s Save the Sea campaign, an initiative designed to highlight the pollution of our oceans.

We spoke to Paul & Shark Worldwide Travel Retail Director Catherine Bonelli to find out more about this project and about the company’s commitment to environmental issues which is, she says, “part of our DNA”.

In collaboration with Paul & Shark, Annarita Serra created an underwater themed artwork at the TFWA Exhibition in Cannes.

The Moodie Davitt Report: Tell us about the Save the Sea project.

Catherine Bonelli: The Save the Sea project aims to raise awareness about one of the most serious forms of pollution affecting our seas on a global basis.

Plastic is a major source of global marine pollution on a number of levels, from poisoning and injuring fish and other marine life to disrupting human hormones by entering the food chain. From littering our beaches and coastal landscapes to clogging waste streams and landfill.

Plastic just doesn’t disintegrate and, large or small, it has a massively negative effect on our lives and the lives of many species.

“It really is incredible to see how Annarita Serra communicates through movement, colour, shapes and concepts to tell a powerful and intense story.”

Paul & Shark’s Catherine Bonelli says a commitment to environmental causes is an integral part of the brand’s philosophy.

How did the collaboration with Annarita Serra come about?

We came across the artist Annarita Serra and were immediately impressed by her incredible and thought-provoking artworks, which are made from waste plastics, particularly those found on beaches.

Her mission is to bring the terrible problem of sea pollution to the attention of the masses through positive artworks. It really is incredible to see how she communicates through movement, colour, shapes and concepts to tell a powerful and intense story.

Her artworks often reproduce pop culture icons, well-known characters, statues etc, but we were particularly keen to work with her on a project that would link directly to the sea.

How did the project begin?

In collaboration with Annarita, we presented the Save the Sea project during Design Week in Milan in April. During that time Annarita worked live inside the Paul & Shark boutique on Via Montenapoleone, Milan, on this artwork, using plastic and wood collected along the beaches of her native land, Sardinia.

Annarita Serra (second left) and the Paul & Shark Travel Retail team pose proudly alongside the specially created artwork.

In Cannes she created a wonderful artwork – a wooden shark set against a background of ‘sea’ made from plastic waste including containers, sandals, flippers, netting, bottle tops and much, much more.

We are proud that this artwork – which perfectly interprets Paul & Shark’s own environmental values and represents the DNA of the brand, bringing together our icons of shark, water and sea – now hangs in our Milan showroom in pride of place.

“Anyone who has the means to travel also has the means to contribute to CSR causes, so the airport environment is an excellent way to bring them to the attention of the public.”

Why did you choose the TFWA Exhibition in Cannes as the setting for another live event?

With the TFWA World Exhibition such a global stage for our industry, we felt it provided the perfect opportunity to show how Paul & Shark is embracing this serious environmental issue.

We were delighted that Annarita Serra agreed to join us in Cannes and create a piece of artwork on the stand, really in a very short space of time – between the opening of the show and Wednesday afternoon. Her artwork was stunning and we were extremely impressed with the powerful statement that it made.

To further support the project, we created a special Save the Sea cotton t-shirt and also a bomber jacket. The latter is made from recycled polyester nylon 100% derived from post-consumer plastic bottles collected and processed in Italy. The yarn used stands out in terms of design, high performance and quality.

Paul & Shark is very much involved with the Save the Sea project. In the future there will certainly be further cooperation.

Is Paul & Shark involved in any other environmental CSR initiatives?

Yes, we are always looking to support environmental projects. In 2017, for example, we initiated a special project that paid homage to a symbol for which Paul & Shark is known around the world: the shark.

To coincide with Milano Moda Uomo, we presented a special Sharkflage capsule collection, developed in collaboration with South African biologist and photographer Chris Fallows.

The project put the shark in the spotlight. The shark often gets bad press, but actually it is another form of marine life that needs protecting.

“We all have a responsibility to think and act beyond our own profitability.”

Chris Fallows is a world-renowned wildlife photographer specialising in marine predators. He and his wife set up Apex Shark Expeditions in Cape Town with the hope to educate, through their work, their guests and audiences about the conservation of sharks and marine wildlife at a global level.

For years Chris has been capturing images of sharks with the aim of making the public more aware of the need to protect our wildlife.

Based on a snapshot he took in the waters off South Africa, Paul & Shark graphically revisited the subject of the photo by creating an exclusive camouflage-style pattern for T-shirts, technical jackets and accessories such as a backpack, baseball cap and surfboard: the Sharkflage collection.

Part of the proceeds of Sharkflage go towards helping the Dyer Island Conservation Trust. The Trust strives to protect the world’s densest populations of the vulnerable Great White Shark; the largest surviving colonies of the endangered African Penguin, whose numbers are at an all-time low; and the globally important breeding and calving grounds of the Southern Right Whale. 

Paul & Shark highlighted the launch of its Sharkflage collection with bold window displays featuring underwater videos of sharks.

To what extent does Paul & Shark introduce educational programmes about social and humanitarian issues as well the environment and sustainability among its employees?

We consider ourselves a very green company. For example, we have installed 500 solar panels at our headquarters. These are able to convert the sun’s rays into 123,000 kWh of power which covers some 15% of the company’s annual energy needs.

Being a green company, our corporate culture is to always pay attention and be aware of environmental issues – so it is an automatic part of our DNA, which our employees are very aware of from the moment they join our family.

Through our initiatives and CSR culture we believe our employees are both inspired and empowered and, without exception, are proud to be part of Paul & Shark.

Catherine Bonelli said the TFWA Exhibition provided a “global stage” from which to highlight the Save the Sea initiative.

Does Paul & Shark communicate with consumers about sustainability?

Our website includes information on our Green Initiative and solar panels. We also communicate our commitment to our customers via our Point of Sale initiatives.

When we launched Sharkflage in 2017, we brought in a specialised team to develop an ad hoc window project to best present the capsule collection.

The project consisted of a 3D experience that was adapted to the windows of individual stores, each of which was furnished and equipped with props and materials to support the point of sale. The idea was to better describe the genesis of the project and the special attention that Paul & Shark dedicates to the preservation and respect of the marine world. 

 “Being a green company, our corporate culture is to always pay attention and be aware of environmental issues – so it is an automatic part of our DNA, which our employees are very aware of from the moment they join our family.”

Are there any measurable KPIs on the impact on the CSR programmes with consumers, retailers and employees?

We believe that our sustainability program does have a direct effect on the image of Paul & Shark amongst its loyal customers.

We can also directly measure the sales of our relevant capsule collections such as Sharkflage and Save the Sea, created to support these projects. Internally we can keep track of KPI’s that are a direct result of us creating green electricity.

Paul & Shark is committed to green initiatives, including the installation of over 500 solar panels at its headquarters, which generate enough energy for around 15% of its annual needs.

Do you think the duty free and travel retail industry could be doing more and better in terms of CSR?

Airports bring together consumers from all over the world so there is no better place to bring to their attention worldwide problems – whether they be environmental, human or animal based.

Anyone who has the means to travel also has the means to contribute to CSR causes, or at least be made more aware of them. So, if brands are involved in such projects, then this environment is an excellent way to bring them to the attention of the public.

For all of us involved in the global travel retail industry, whether as part of an international brand, a family company, or a company that is exclusive to global travel retail – we all have a responsibility to think and act beyond our own profitability.